“Be Thankful For What You Got” by William DeVaughn (1974)

“Diamond in the back/sun roof top/diggin’ the scene with a gangster lean.”

I’m not a gangsta or a pimp. Shit, I can barely drive a car. “Be Thankful For What You Got”, though…it almost makes me want to put my road anxiety aside, throw on a fur coat, a fedora and some Elton John sunglasses, and cruise down a street slowly. It also makes me want mutton-chop sideburns for some reason.

“Be Thankful” wouldn’t have existed without Curtis Mayfield. Not that Mr. Superfly had any direct involvement with the song (he didn’t), but DeVaughn clearly molded his one hit in the vein of the legendary Chicago crooner. In the four decades following its chart run, the song has become a stone-cold classic through exposure in film, by way of samples and interpolations, and (I’d imagine) via some old-school playas who still ride down the street blasting “Be Thankful” on their car stereos.

Interesting fact, especially when you consider “Be Thankful”s eventual iconography (which is almost exclusively focused on its chorus): As pimped out as “Be Thankful” is, the song’s message is actually anti-materialism. He’s singing about being appreciative of your life even though you might not have the fancy car, tons of money, or the status that you’re afforded with either of those things. I respect that sentiment as much as I respect the groove.

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